Is propane grilling bad for you? – Gas grilling is a popular way to cook food during the summer months. However, some people are concerned that it might be bad for their health. In this blog post, we will explore the risks and benefits of propane grilling and provide you with information so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to use it!
Ah, barbecues. There’s nothing that marks the start of summer quite like the aroma of barbecue wafting through the windows of your home. For some reason, there’s an inherent correlation between warm weather and an overwhelming desire to devour a juicy burger — meaty or veggie —, some BBQ chicken, or a couple of meat skewers while hanging out around a grill — and that’s a fact.
That savory, smoky aroma of meats and vegetables, when tossed on the grill and letting the open flame do its thing, is what makes this method of cooking addictive. You can cook frozen burgers, juicy steaks and fall off the bone ribs all on one surface! But… What about the chemical reaction that occurs during the process?
When it comes to grilling, many people opt to put aside the traditional charcoal grill and buy a gas grill, which, while being far more convenient than its old counterpart, raises many health-related questions. So, in the name of the grill in our backyard, we decided to do some research to verify if grilling with propane is good for your health or not, if it causes outdoor air pollution, or even if it can lead to cancer — so that you can be sure whether your double burgers are doing you more harm than just raising your cholesterol levels or not.
Let’s Get into it: Is cooking with propane bad for you?
Right off the bat, we can assure you that no, gas grilling is not so bad for you — as long as you do it outside.
Let’s start with the fact that a properly burning gas grill produces almost nothing but heat, water, carbon dioxide, and some carbon monoxide as byproducts in the burning process. I know that last chemical may raise a red flag for you, but while propane counts as a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), it doesn’t give off remotely the levels of carbon monoxide that, for example, charcoal or wood grills do. Plus, the only way propane itself can be harmful to your health is if you grill with it for a long time and let the smoke build up in a small space, which can lead to indoor air pollution and, consequently, carbon monoxide poisoning. Buuuut most grills are designed for outdoor use, so this shouldn’t be a major concern.
Now, why do we say that gas grilling is “not so bad” and not just “not bad”? Because propane isn’t what can be a bit harmful, but the act of grilling per se.
Does Grilling With A Gas Propane Grill Cause Cancer?
Propane itself isn’t a carcinogen, so whatever you cook that comes in direct contact with this substance won’t present any cancer-related concerns whatsoever. However, as I mentioned earlier, the real issue here isn’t the fuel rather how it’s used.
Grilling, in general, involves lots — and we mean LOTS — of heat, and if that heat comes in contact with meat, it can cause two things: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In a nutshell, HCAs develop inside the meat when amino acids and other substances react with high temperatures and char some parts of the meat. PAHs, on the other hand, develop outside the meat when flames from the grill melt the fat which then drips down, hits the heat source, and creates smoke that sticks to the meat.
The dark side of all these chemical reactions is that both HCAs and PAHs cause DNA alterations that may increase the risk of cancer. However, the studies that have been conducted on this subject involve a) rodents and b) high doses of HCAs and PAHs that are equivalent to thousands of times the doses that a regular person would consume in a normal diet.
Soooo long story short, does propane grilling cause cancer? Not really. Does grilling cause cancer? Uh… Maybe? There are still many studies to be done with realistic amounts of HCAs and PAHs that we humans consume.
Is Grilling Bad For Your Health in General?
It’s no secret that the health effects of grilled food are a bit questionable. I mean, a diet rich in sausages, greasy bacon, and cheeseburgers probably doesn’t do our bodies any favors. But does grilling, in terms of the cooking method itself, lead to any general health problems?
As you can tell from the title above, yes, grilling may be bad for some areas of your health, but not life-threatening. First off, no study has determined the exact amount by which HCAs and PAHs become carcinogenic to humans, and as with most things in life, eating grilled foods in moderation isn’t too bad. In fact, it’s something that can be perfectly safe to do as long as you don’t overdo it and, of course, follow a couple of safety precautions.
First, the damage that carbon monoxide can do to your health can be mitigated — if not eliminated — by using the grill in a well-ventilated place, i.e., outdoors, and by standing to the side of the grill when you open the cover.
Second, you can cut PAHs out of your life by cutting off the charred parts in your meat, or better yet, by using a low to medium heat setting — below 300 °F — in order to not char it in the first place. “But what about PAHs?” We can hear you asking. Well, you can minimize their effects by trimming the excess fat off your cut of meat. That way, not many meat juices will drip over the heat source, thus avoiding big flare-ups.
Pro-tip: If you’re still concerned about possible carcinogens, another simple thing you can do to reduce the presence of HCAs in your food is to use the magical powers of marinating. In addition to drowning and packing your cuts of meat with flavor, a 2008 study revealed that marinating them with a mixture of spices, oil, water, and vinegar can reduce their HCA content. Additionally, another study from 2012 showed that acidic marinades can also significantly reduce the presence of PAHs — up to 70%! — in grilled meats. Basically, the marinade makes the surface of the meatless sticky by adding extra moisture, which makes it harder for the HCA-filled smoke to penetrate it.
Is cooking on a Gas Grill Healthier Than Charcoal?
Propane grills have been a household favorite for a very long time, especially in this modern era where convenience reigns supreme. However, even with the rise in popularity of gas grills, charcoal has never been completely left behind. Many beginner grilling enthusiasts seem to prefer to start with charcoal and there are a plethora of beginner-friendly charcoal grill recipes out there that are simple enough to follow.
Charcoal grills still sell quite well, and many barbecue connoisseurs claim they prefer to cook their cuts of meat over hot, glowing coals not just for the whole “satisfying ritual” of lighting them up but for the “extra” flavor it gives them — even though charcoal doesn’t really add much flavor, but we’ll get to that later —, but as far as health is concerned, do charcoal grills beat propane grills? Or is cooking on a gas grill actually healthier than charcoal? The answer may seem obvious, but we’ll reveal it anyway: propane is healthier.
Charcoal burns hotter than propane, and that’s a fact. That means the surface of any meat you toss on a charcoal grill will be in more contact with the flame, which can not only create a nice sear but also increase the amount of HCAs inside of it.
Additionally, cooking with charcoal releases more smoke than cooking with propane, which creates tiny soot particles that can pollute the air and, worse, settle deep into your lungs and cause irritation. In the health department, propane is the clear winner.
IS A PROPANE GRILL BETTER THAN CHARCOAL?
Ok so, we know that gas grilling is less unhealthy than charcoal grilling, but how does propane stand against charcoal in the heat control, flavor, and environmental departments? Strong!
In the heat control department, we give gas grills a thumbs up. Overall it’s better to grill using gas because the temperature is easier to control. You can accurately switch from low to high heat in a matter of seconds. On the other hand, when cooking with charcoal, the temperature can’t be adjusted just by turning a knob. You have to adjust the air dampers, lower or raise the rack level or move the charcoal — and wait.
In the flavor department, propane grills take another thumbs up because although charcoal gives a certain smoky aroma to the meat, most of the characteristic smoky, rich flavor of grilled food comes from the juice drippings, not the fuel itself. When those drippings reach the heat source, fat, sugars, and proteins mix and are released as smoke, which coats whatever you’re grilling. Checkmate, charcoal purists!
Last but not least, in the environmental department, propane grills also get a thumbs up because they burn the cleanest, whereas charcoal releases strong VOCs and soot particles that lower outdoor air quality. Oh, and it’s also been proven that charcoal grills emit almost double the carbon dioxide levels of gas grills. Who would’ve thought that even Mother Earth prefers gas grills over charcoal?
Once again, gas grills come out on top, officially proclaiming themselves better than charcoal grills.
Best Propane Gas Grills
Grills are the heart of weekend backyard barbecues, patriotic holidays, camping trips and tailgating bashes, so if you’re going to get one for your own backyard, it better be a good long-lasting one.
You could get a classic charcoal grill, an electric grill, a pellet grill or a tabletop grill, but since this post is about propane and we verified that its use is not as harmful as charcoal, here we’ll review the best gas grills you can find online, taking into account 5 key factors:
- Extra features
When purchasing any grill, it’s always important to keep these 5 factors in mind as they will determine not only whether the grill will perform at its best, but also whether it will suit your own personal style. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the smoky candidates.
- Dimensions: Let’s start this with Char-Broil, one of America’s best-known grill brands. This particular cabinet-style grill is 50.3 x 20 x 45.3 inches in size and comes with 435 square inches of total grilling space, which is more than enough to satisfy most summer grilling needs.
- Quality: Two words — stainless steel. Both the entire body and the four burners are made of durable stainless steel, the only thing that falls outside of that material are the grates, which are made of rust-resistant, easy to clean, porcelain-coated cast iron.
- Performance: The Char-Broil Performance 463354021 lives up to its name, since it has an excellent performance thanks to its four 37,000 BTU — the amount of heat a grill can generate when its burners are at maximum power — burners. Whether you want to grill 12 or 24 burgers, trust us, you won’t be short of power.
- Extra features: In addition to the two-door cabinet that not only holds the propane tank but also stores accessories and grilling tools, it also features a 10,000 BTU lidded side burner ideal for heating beans, sauces or boiling water.
- Price: You’re probably thinking “$400? $500?” but nope, this grill costs around $350. Yup, with all the features mentioned above!
- Dimensions: Looking for a good, portable tabletop grill? Well, you want it, you got it — this Weber grill is only 20.5 x 40.9 x 24.6 inches in size with a 189 square-inch total grilling area.
- Quality: If there’s one excellent thing about this grill cookbox it is its durability and minimal maintenance. The lid and body are made from rust-resistant cast aluminum, the cooking grates are made from porcelain-enameled cast iron, and its nylon frame is glass-reinforced.
- Performance: The Weber Q1200 is small, yet powerful. One stainless steel burner produces 8,500 BTU-per-hour, more than enough for grilling on-the-go.
- Extra features: While this grill doesn’t have many extra features, it still has a couple of useful things like an efficient grease management system and an infinite control burner valve. Oh, and a 5-year warranty which always comes in handy!
- Price: If you want to buy it from Amazon, it’s around $250. Yes, it’s kinda expensive for its size, but believe us, the quality of this little guy is worth it.
- Dimensions: Maybe this Blackstone 36″ Cooking Station won’t blend seamlessly into your outdoor space, but if you have a large backyard and want to please a crowd with tasty food, this grill will do the job for sure. It’s 66.52 x 27.6 x 35.43 inches in size and features a 720 square-inch flat top grilling area.
- Quality: High-quality, dishwasher-safe stainless steel.
- Performance: It features 4 burners that deliver an impressive output of 60,000 BTU, allowing you to grill steaks, burgers and pork, or eggs, pancakes, and quesadillas — thanks to the flat top — at the same time without any problem.
- Extra features: It has garbage bag hooks, a grease management system in the back, a bottom storage shelf, a removable cutting board and a paper towel holder. You will hardly have to move from the grill to do all the work!
- Price: At $400, this grill is reasonably priced for how big it is and the extra features it includes. There are grills out there that cost twice as much as this one and the size — and quality — of their grilling areas are not even close to this one.
- Dimensions: Let’s be honest for a good second, this grill looks more like an ornament than a grill – and we don’t mean it in a bad way. It’s a clever design of just 21 x 21 x 46 inches in size and 346 square inches of total grilling area, which is sure to fit in any corner of any small backyard.
- Quality: There are two versions, one in stainless steel and one in metal. This is the metal version, with a cast iron grilling grate and a porcelain enamel lid included.
- Performance: Don’t let the size of the Fuego Element F21C-H fool you, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in power. With its 22,000 BTU per hour of power in its dual zone burner system, this grill reaches 500°F in just 5 minutes. Yes, you read that right, this thing heats up really, REALLY fast!
- Extra features: Did somebody say easy assembly? That’s the best bonus feature/quality it has, anyone can assemble it in 30 minutes or so. But besides that, it also comes with an optional griddle and pizza stone kit.
- Price: Having this minimalist grill in your backyard costs around $375, a fair price for a grill with an innovative concept.
- Dimensions: We saved the best for last — this Char-Griller grill is only 48 x 28 x 48 inches in size and has 438 square inches of total grilling area, but as you’ll see below, it definitely packs a lot of punch.
- Quality: Heavy-duty stainless steel construction, this grill will stand up to years of constant use and a long time will pass before it rusts even a little bit.
- Performance: It features three 40,800 BTU burners with independent control knobs and a 12,000 BTU side burner. The only performance-related “issue” that you have to keep in mind is that this grill heats up fast, maybe more than you need it to, so if you run into any trouble, just start out with less heat.
- Extra features: It features thick porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates so your food doesn’t get stuck and retains as much heat as possible, a warming rack, a grill cover, a scraper and a side workstation with BBQ tool set storage hooks — convenience all around!
- Price: If you’re looking for the perfect marriage of flavor, convenience, reliability and price, this grill is for you. It only costs $300, and considering its good quality and features, the Char-Griller E3001 Grillin’ Pro will offer the best bang for your buck if you’re on a budget.
Gas Grills Reign supreme when it comes to health
Overall, it’s pretty clear: propane grills are a win-win, and while they can present some health complications in oddly specific — and extreme — cases, they are way better than charcoal grills. So please don’t rush to throw away your grill just because in extreme cases it may be slightly bad for your health. After all, carcinogens are found almost everywhere. By that, we don’t mean that you should welcome all carcinogens into your life, rather investigate which ones are actually present, in which amounts, and whether you should really worry much about them or not.
Grilling on weekends or a couple of times during the course of the summer most likely won’t do much harm, so just go ahead and treat yourself and your family with a good ol’ BBQ.
BTW, we’re sure you already figured out that we love gas grills, but if you want to stick with charcoal grills, go for it! To each his own, we won’t push you to change your grill if you don’t want to, but… We’ll just say that gas grills will always be there for you, patiently waiting in case you decide to make the switch. While some food trends come and go, grilling will always be one of the best ways to cook, so you have plenty of time ;).